In 2019, the Romanian manufacturer presented its first high-end headphones: the Meze Empyrean, launched at €2,999. A real success, they remain one of the best references in this price range for open-back headphones. Three years later, the brand wants to push the limits again with the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones, which take the main characteristics that made their predecessor so successful, while improving them with a revised design and even more advanced acoustics. Will this new iteration priced at €4,000 manage to offer an even more grandiose performance than its forerunner, which was praised by the world’s specialist press?
Meze Empyrean Elite: packaging & accessories
The luxury and exclusivity of the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones were evident from the moment they were delivered. They came enclosed in a beautiful and impressive aluminum carrying case. The case has a spring-loaded handle that automatically folds down, as well as rubber feet to rest gently on any surface without causing scratches. Inside, the headphones are perfectly cushioned and protected by thick packing foam on each side of the case. They come with a warranty card, a manual summarizing the different technologies and two sets of earpads: the first covered with leather, the second with velvet fabric. A 6.35mm mini-jack cable also accompanies the version we received for this test. Depending on your needs, you can order the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones with either a 3.5mm mini-jack or XLR cable.
Meze Empyrean Elite: presentation
Like their predecessor, the Meze Empyrean Elite open-back headphones have a luxurious look that makes a strong impression from the first time you put them on. Their elegance is embodied in a meticulous design made exclusively of luxurious and robust materials. They feature the double headband of the first Meze Empyrean, with a dual structure made of carbon fiber. A patented leather headband supports the headband to evenly distribute the weight of the headphones over the listener’s head. The Romanian manufacturer’s attention to detail is evident in every aspect of the headphones, including the leather headband, which has Elite and the letters R and L on the top for easy cable connection.
Entirely handcrafted in the Meze workshop, the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones adopt an aluminum structure requiring no less than 20 hours of work to make each frame. The earcup frame is made of a single piece of aluminum and incorporates a carbon grill on the rear to let the drivers breathe, for the benefit of airiness and openness of the soundstage.
Each shell of the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones can be rotated 360° and rotated up and down as they are mounted on rods, also made of aluminum. In the center of this is the height adjustment mechanism of the earpieces. The latter are adjusted smoothly and stay securely in place, even after multiple sessions of use.
The Meze Empyrean Elite headphones are large and quite imposing so as not to compromise on comfort. They really seem to float around the head thanks to their very wide earpieces that surround the ears and benefit from particularly thick memory foam padding. They are very soft and don’t exert any pressure on the ears. Interchangeable, the pads can be removed and fitted very easily. A magnetic ring keeps them in place on the frame. It is therefore possible to choose between the velvet or leather earpads. Both are very comfortable to wear, although we preferred the velvet covering for its softness and the absence of cold feeling when putting on the headphones. In summer, the leather earpads have the advantage of being less warm.
The Romanian manufacturer Meze built the reputation of the first version of the Meze Empyrean headphones on its isodynamic drivers designed in collaboration with the specialist Rinaro. The Meze Empyrean Elite headphones use the Hybrid Array models of their predecessor, optimized with a new polymer diaphragm that promises even better linearity. This oval-shaped diaphragm fits snugly into the headphones’ ear cups to maintain an emissive surface area of 465 mm² and maximize the emissive surface to provide a more enveloping sound.
While isodynamic technology is not new and is at the heart of many high-end headphones from HiFiMAN, Audeze and Fostex, manufacturer Meze optimizes it with a unique dual coil system. Called Isodynamic Hybrid Array, this technology uses a large diaphragm weighing only 11 grams with a metal armature that acts as a coil. While conventional isodynamic transducers use a single constant coil, each diaphragm in the Meze Empyrean Elite uses two coils: one spiral and one switchback.
This design, which has proven successful in the Meze Empyrean and recent Meze Liric, allows the sound to be focused more effectively around the natural shape of the ear. This is because the switchback coil, which is more effective at reproducing low frequencies, is placed in the upper part of the transducer. The spiral coil is more precise for the midrange and highs and is positioned at the bottom of the diaphragm, directly in front of the ear canal. This layout eliminates reflection and delay, for a more accurate reproduction of the entire audio spectrum. Finally, the neodymium magnet arrays placed on either side of the diaphragm have the same shape to match the coils and provide a power of 0.35 Tesla. Identical to those of the Meze Empyrean headphones, these magnets benefit from a new, more rigid chassis.
A choice of cable
The Meze Empyrean Elite headphones feature a 4-pin mini XLR connector on each earpiece to accommodate the detachable cable. As standard, the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones can be ordered with a 1.2m unbalanced cable with a 6.35mm or 3.5mm mini-jack connector, or with a 2.5m balanced cable with XLR plug. Consequently, you can choose the model that best suits your needs, even if a set of balanced and unbalanced cables provided as standard would have been nice. Note that it is also possible to opt for an optional cable such as the Meze Furukawa PCUHD 2.5mm jack cable or the Meze Furukawa PCUHD 4.4mm jack cable.
With their very large isodynamic drivers, the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones have a wide frequency range from 3Hz to 112kHz. They have a high sensitivity of 101 dB for an impedance of 32 ohms. They do however require a high-quality source such as a DAP or a headphone amplifier with a high current reserve to fully reveal their musical qualities.
Meze Empyrean Elite: key specifications
- Open-back over-ear headphones
- Solid aluminum chassis
- Carbon and real leather headband
- 3.5mm mini-jack, 6.35mm jack or XLR cable
- 102 x 73mm isodynamic drivers
- Frequency response: 3Hz to 112kHz
- Impedance: 32 ohms
- Sensitivity: 101 dB
- Weight: approximately 430g
Meze Empyrean Elite: listening conditions
We tested the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones with the Shanling EM5 Streaming Music Center and Astell&Kern Acro CA1000 headphone amplifiers, as well as the Astell&Kern A&norma SR25 MKII and FiiO M17 DAPs. We listened to DSD and 24-bit/192kHz files stored locally, and Hi-Res tracks streamed from Qobuz.
Meze Empyrean Elite: listening impressions
First and foremost, the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones impressed with their extreme comfort. In total opposition to their format, they were very discreet, leaving the music at the forefront. After a short break-in period, the music was reproduced with even more smoothness and transparency than their predecessor. The soundstage was very wide and remarkably spacious. We enjoyed a very pleasant three-dimensional reproduction that ensured that the various sound levels were perfectly layered and each instrument was nicely materialized. Everything was correctly positioned and unfolded with finesse.
With classical music and opera, the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones displayed their vitality. The responsiveness of the drivers was exceptional and managed to reproduce all the attacks of the orchestra with intensity. The music was truly alive, intense and transparent. The string instruments were crystal clear and beautifully crisp. The wide and deep soundstage allowed the headphones to precisely materialize the orchestra, which seemed to come to life. Each instrument had room to breathe and took full advantage of the spaciousness of the stage, which faithfully reproduced the acoustics of the recording room. The listening experience was so gripping and realistic that we could even distinguish the sound of the keys of certain wind instruments.
The Meze Empyrean Elite headphones delivered vocals with delightful clarity. From the highest sopranos to Barry White’s baritone voice, the different tessituras were always nuanced and reproduced with naturalness and beautiful articulation. It was all the more convincing with high-quality recordings where each lip movement took shape, bringing sensuality and a feeling of closeness to the sound. The slightest intonation stood out effectively from the rest thanks to a perfect command of micro-details and an incredibly transparent soundstage.
Like their predecessor, the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones reproduced lows with density, depth and energy. The bass took shape with impact, determination and excellent stability. It was powerful, but didn’t overwhelm the other frequency ranges, allowing the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones to maintain an unwavering balance. At the other end of the spectrum, the highs were limpid and transparent. They benefited from a beautiful clarity which allowed us to perceive every micro information, while preserving an imperturbable softness to resist any unwanted brightness. Finally, the midrange was very present, rich and silky.
Meze Empyrean Elite: compared to…
Meze Empyrean: the precursor to the Meze Empyrean Elite, the Meze Empyreans adopt a very similar overall design, with an aluminum chassis and large, generously padded earpieces. They are just as comfortable to wear and make room for the music. Soundwise, the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones push the boundaries a little by providing a bit more detail and clarity. They are also a little more energetic, especially in the bass which hits slightly harder and is even deeper. However, these optimizations imply a price increase of €1000, making this second version more elitist.
Focal Utopia BE: the Focal Utopia headphones are an open-back over-ear model equipped with Focal M-dome drivers made of pure Beryllium. Flagship of the French manufacturer, they deliver music with a very vast soundstage that extends all around the listener. The sound is very well balanced, with deeper bass than the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones. However, the latter offer a slightly rounder and softer reproduction in the high frequencies. Finally, the Meze Empyrean Elite have the great advantage of being more comfortable, despite their larger size.
Meze Empyrean Elite: who are they for?
The Meze Empyrean Elite headphones are the perfect companion for a high-end DAP or headphone amplifier, and can bring out the best in your music. Perfect for enjoying high-resolution music, the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones manage to convey all the information in a spacious, transparent, and airy soundstage. With their extra-wide, thick ear pads and patented dual headband, the Meze Empyrean Elite headphones are also ideal for long listening sessions. They’re comfortable enough to be forgotten, so you can simply enjoy the music.
Meze Empyrean Elite: conclusion
Without completely revolutionizing the formula, manufacturer Meze manages to perfect its flagship product with the Meze Empyrean Elite, whose isodynamic transducers are improved to offer an ever more refined reproduction. They never cease to impress with a soundstage of monumental amplitude offering excellent layering to embody each instrument with precision and naturalness. Listening to this new iteration reveals additional clarity and energy, for the benefit of a soundstage that is a little more transparent and that leaves more room for micro-details. With a quality source such as the FiiO M17 or the Astell&Kern Acro CA1000, they are a real pleasure, encouraging us to listen to music for longer.
- The comfort
- The spacious soundstage
- The perfectly layered sound levels
- Their ability to reveal micro-details
We would have liked:
- For a balanced and unbalanced cable to have been included